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A Medical Doctor Answers Our MOST CURIOUS Lianhua Qingwen Questions

CHiNOY TV sat down with Dr. Philip Tan-Gatue, a physician who specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine, to talk about our most curious questions on it!

This article is strategically divided into 4 parts, and on the latter parts, the burning question will be answered: does Lianhua Qingwen help COVID-19 patients or not? Here’s what we learned from Dr. Tan-Gatue.


Before discussing Lianhua Qingwen itself, it’s important we’re all on the same page first!

Q: Let’s run through some basics! What do we need to know?

A: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), diseases and herbs are characterized by nature. For example, a cough can be of cold nature, and the way to treat that is to use herbs of hot nature. Similarly, a cough can also be of hot nature, and that is remedied by herbs of cold nature. 

That is just very basic, but you guessed it: in TCM, balance is the key! Warm what is cold and cool what is hot so a balance is achieved. 

Q: What is herbal medicine? 

A: Herbs are fundamental to TCM. As mentioned above, herbs have natures. When herbs are combined together, the result is something completely new. That’s often how herbal medicines are made. 

Q: Are all herbal medicine formulas made of Chinese herbs? 

A: No! Traditional Chinese herbal medicine follows TCM principles, but not all herbs should strictly come from China! 

Q: How do we know that herbal medicine is not just fake and unscientific?

A: In both Taiwan and Japan, Chinese herbal medicine is covered under their national insurance systems. They have a lot of studies that prove the effectiveness of herbal medicine. 


These are general Lianhua Qingwen questions not necessarily related to COVID-19 yet.

Q: How is it made?

A: Dr. Tan-Gatue is not specifically sure, but for herbal medicines in general, the essences of the herbs are extracted. Many times, herbs are turned into powder and stuffed into capsules; in other words, same as commercial medicine.

Q: What is it made of?

A: Lianhua Qingwen is made of Japanese honeysuckle flower, weeping forsythia, ephedra (to be talked about more later), and more.

Q: What does it do?

A: From a TCM point of view, Lianhua Qingwen relieves “toxic lung heat”. “Toxic” can be thought of as pus (different from phlegm). “Lung heat” is when the level of heat in the lung is too high. Lianhua Qingwen helps breathing, reduces inflammation, and clears the products of inflammation. 

Q: OH, so if it treats toxic lung heat, Lianhua Qingwen must be of cold nature!
A: As a whole, yes, it is of cold nature! Absolutely right! 

Q: Do I need a doctor’s prescription?

A: In the Philippines, where basic TCM concepts are not too familiar, a doctor’s prescription is required, just for everyone’s safety.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Just like any other medicine, consumption of Lianhua Qingwen is safe IF it is used the way it’s supposed to be. 

There are concerns about the substance ephedrine (from the ephedra herb), which is considered a dangerous drug in the Philippines. However, according to Dr. Tan-Gatue, herbal medicine is to be looked at from a whole.. Look at the end product, not the individual ingredients. 

A good analogy would be to look at salt. It’s made from sodium and chloride. Both are harmful but when combined, they form salt, which we always consume. The same view should be taken for Lianhua Qingwen; the ephedra is just one of many herbs that form a completely new product.

Besides, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved Lianhua Qingwen’s product registration, so the product itself is not illegal! 

Lianhua Qingwen’s product registration

Q: Speaking of the FDA approval… What does that mean?

A: Lianhua Qingwen should soon be more available in drugstores, with the requirement of a prescription. In addition, the approval means, again, that it is safe to consume if used for the proper indications. 

Q: Where can I buy some?

A: Your safest bet is to ask a doctor. Just make sure who you’re speaking with is actually a doctor — there are fake ones out there! 

Q: Where should I NOT buy some?

A: Just like any other prescription medicine, do NOT buy Lianhua Qingwen on online shopping websites. No matter how squeaky clean they may seem, you really will never know if it is authentic or not. 


These are the burning questions!

Q: Does Lianhua Qingwen help COVID-19 patients or not?

A: Yes, but not always. Many say it helps patients suffering from mild COVID-19 but it’s more complicated than that. 

The problem with COVID-19 is that not all patients experience the same manifestations of the disease. In addition, Dr. Tan-Gatue says, manifestations can change quickly. A cough on Monday can be accompanied with a fever on Tuesday, and of course, as the manifestations change, the treatment to be used to treat the new manifestations change, too. That’s besides the question if the manifestations are of hot or cold nature!

So, to answer this question, effectiveness depends. The accompaniment of a doctor is best.

Q: Can it prevent one from getting the disease in the first place?

A: No, it cannot. Let’s be very crystal clear on that. 


This question is just as important as everything above.

Q: Now that Lianhua Qingwen has been approved, where do we go from here?

A: This is great. It’s time that we recognize other traditions of medicine. Of course, we don’t just accept everything as gospel truth, but we should be open to what is scientifically proven to be effective. 

Let us be open because, according to Dr. Tan-Gatue, there’s really a lot of potential in Chinese herbal medicine that’ll help the overall medical community. 

Photo credits: China Global Television Network, Chinese Embassy Manila

About the interviewee:

Dr. Philip Tan-Gatue is a medical doctor, an alumnus of the UP College of Medicine. He holds certificates from the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences.  


The author of this article: 

An accomplished young Chinese Filipino writer and media personality, Aaron S. Medina is associated with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Ateneo de Manila University Chinese Studies Program, the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, and CHiNOY TV. He has a passion for truth, justice, and Pokémon, too! Follow him on Facebook:

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